This is the first in a series of personal experiences with food and cancer – your experiences, your voices. It’s one thing for me to tell you my opinion, what I see and hear as an oncologist. It’s another thing entirely to hear from people who have gone through it, learned from it, and lived to tell about it. Carrie is starting us off.
Carrie Winegarden is a 27 year old woman living in the San Francisco Bay Area who blogs about technology, the internet, reading, fitness,
food, and cancer at CarrieActually.com.
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In November 2009 I was in pain. I took several days off of work because it hurt to get dressed in anything other than my soft and stretchy pajamas and I was so exhausted that I didn’t bother adjusting myself to Daylight Savings Time and was perfectly happy going to bed at 8pm. The day before Thanksgiving I called my doctor’s advice line because I had a bruisey lump on my chest that was only getting worse after a couple weeks and it had hurt to laugh with my sister who was home for college for the holiday. The advice nurse scheduled an appointment for me the day after Thanksgiving. At that appointment I was sent for a CT scan, and I was told I had a tumor but because it was a holiday weekend I had to wait until the next week for a biopsy to see if it was cancerous or not.
That was the longest holiday weekend ever.
I think most of my tastebuds died, and water in particular tasted particularly metallic and awful which lead to needing bags and bags of saline along with my chemotherapy to combat dehydration. Before chemotherapy I liked only foods that were bland, sweet, or salty but over the course of my treatment I developed a taste for strong and spicy flavors – hot peppers, pungent cheeses, and loads of garlic became normal for me.
My birthday is in April and that year my family and closest friends were particularly grateful that I was able to celebrate a birthday at all. We went out for fondue because cheeses and rich chocolates were flavors I could taste and especially enjoy.
The hardest thing about eating was sometimes just getting to the food. There were days when I woke up so weak and dizzy that I didn’t even trust myself to be able to get down the stairs from my bed to the kitchen and had to call my mom (who thankfully lives just a couple miles away) to come over and bring food up the stairs to me. The thing that most helped me enjoy my food was to take the time to plate it nicely on real dishes and sit at the table. It makes the eating much more about the experience and less about the food.
My veins burned from my chemotherapy medication so it had to be administered very slowly and a session would often take 6 to 8 hours. My mom came with me to most sessions and we’d often pack a lunch and snacks for me but she’d only bring a granola bar for herself – we should have made sure she packed herself a complete lunch too.